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NSCI 444 / 844 - Controversies in Neuroscience

 Winter 2024
 Year 4
 8-9 hours/week
 3 units
On-Campus Course

As insight regarding the human brain expands, so do related issues such as what constitutes personhood, what drives the criminal mind, intelligence-enhancing drugs and end-of-life issues. Lead by experts who deal daily with such concerns, we will focus weekly on a particular topic in neuroscience which impacts on society.

Minimum 4th year (Level 4) standing, registration in a LISC/BHSc Major or SSP, a GPA of 2.5, and one of (NSCI 322/3.0; NSCI 323/3.0; NSCI 324/3.0; ANAT 312/3.0).

Each week an expert will present a 50 to 80 minute seminar on their topic of interest. A two-hour session following later in the same week usually consists of two Powerpoint presentations by students. Each team of two students gives a 30 min overview and critique (rationale, methodology, main findings, implications) of an assigned paper and leads the ensuing 10 minute discussion of the paper`s findings regarding the controversial issue. 

  1. The students will directly interact with researchers who are ‘in the trenches’. These experts repeatedly confront a particular controversial issue, making them particularly suited to lead their session.
  2. Rather than judging what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ regarding these neuroscience issues, students will discuss and debate about how our medical and psychology professionals deal with the controversies in their fields ... as well as how the neurosciences can inform decision making.
  3. The topics are meant to promote discussion and debate regarding how modern neuroscience can be used to help clarify contentious and complex social issues. At the same time, the instructors’ and students’ opinions must be underpinned with solid science.

10% Weekly (brief) written assessments of the 2 research papers as well as class participation.

15% Oral presentations

15% Term paper of a topic different from the oral presentation or the student`s thesis topic

20% Midterm test

40% Final exam on the content of Professors` lectures and the related issues discussed. This gives the students a chance to `stand back` and assess the role of neuroscience in shaping society. It also demonstrates how well they put their thoughts to paper. Previous exams are posted on Exam Bank.

  • 844 students: Depending on class numbers we hope that graduate students will be able to present on their own. All essay questions on the final exam are mandatory, whereas undergrads have some choice.

Students can expect to spend approximately 9 hours per week on this course.

There is no required textbook.

Course Readings: One or two articles will be assigned by the lecturer 7 days before their lecture session.


Letter Grade Percentage
A+ 90-100
A 85-89.9
A- 80-84.9
B+ 77-79.9
B 73-76.9
B- 70-72.9
C+ 67-69.9
C 63-66.9
C- 60-62.9
D+ 57-59.9
D 53-56.9
D- 50-52.9
F 0-49.9